Book Review: Penny Draws a Best Friend, by Sara Shepard

A heartfelt story which may help children become better friends.

Feature image credit: Text Publishing

American author Sara Shepard is best known for her two series Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game (which have both been turned into television series) as well as eight adult fiction novels. Shepard has now moved into writing middle-grade fiction with her Penny Draws series, of which Penny Draws a Best Friend is the second.

Penny, who is in fifth grade at school, has a best friend, Violet, to whom she tells all her secrets. They have always stuck together and had each other’s backs. But when the new term begins, Violet, who has spent some time at camp, is now best friends with the mean girl, Riley. Penny is understandably devastated.

Penny suffers from anxiety. She worries about everything and so she often needs to visit the Feelings Teacher, Mrs Hines. Once there, Penny is able to talk about her worries. Mrs Hines has suggested that Penny write a diary, so she does so, telling all her thoughts to her dog Cosmo. This way, Penny is able to learn more about herself and learn to become a good friend.

Penny Draws a Best Friend is heartfelt, and perfect for any young person who suffers from anxiety as it offers suggestions for how to deal with it. It is also great for children who may know someone suffering from anxiety as it also gives them strategies for how to be a good friend.

This book is not just written in prose. It is interspersed with simple lined drawings with text. These are an integral part of the story and break the text into manageable chunks.

Penny Draws a Best Friend is a charming, engaging and easy-to-read story. It is about learning to control anxiety, but also about other issues children may face, and how to be a good friend to everyone.  Children reading this will hopefully realise that they are not alone and may then be able to talk to others about their own fears.  

It is also about finding your tribe. We need to find friends who accept us for who we are, and who do not judge people without truly knowing them.  First impressions may be deceiving. Nobody is perfect and we need to accept each other’s imperfections.

Middle to upper primary school age children are the target audience and Penny Draws a Best Friend would make a good discussion novel in the classroom.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

The views expressed in this review belong to the author and not Glam Adelaide, its affiliates, or employees.

Distributed by: Text Publishing
Released: May 2023
RRP: $16.99

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